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Thursday, December 13, 2007

SD 51st in Teacher Pay

It's almost not news any more, because it happens every year: South Dakota remains stubbornly, embarrassingly at the bottom of national rankings for teacher pay. The Rapid City Journal brings us the numbers from the latest National Education Association report: South Dakota's average teacher pay is $34,709 -- not bad money, if you're talking to a secretary who's lucky to clear $25K, but still not a good deal if you're trying to convince a teacher to move here from 50th-ranked North Dakota, where that teacher could still make an average of $3000 more, at $37,764.

$3000 difference between us and the next-to-last state, North Dakota, a state as close to us in demographics, economics, and geography as any state could be. What's wrong with this picture?

I heard Rick Knobe on KSOO's Viewpoint University a couple weeks ago talking about teacher pay. He asked why we should pay teachers more when we're getting perfectly good results from them now. Rick won't pony up more dollars unless the teachers do more work -- even better test scores from the kids, longer hours, longer school year, whatever.

Sorry, Chancellor Knobe, but the reality is you're going to have to pay more just to keep what you have. Teachers are as fond of the free market and making a living as you are. Under Knobe's thinking, teachers would have to work even harder then they do now to get a raise. In the status quo teachers can make more with no extra work just by moving to North Dakota (+$3000), Iowa (+$6000), Wyoming (+$9000), or Minnesota ($14,000). New teachers with student loans to pay off will vote with their feet [see the comments of Sue Podoll, Rapid City Education Association co-president, in Kayla Gahagan, "State Ranks 51st in Teacher Salaries Again," Rapid City Journal, 2007.12.12].

One more statistical comparison, for the folks who like to argue that South Dakota's lower cost of living makes it worth a teacher's while to stay here and work for peanuts:
  1. South Dakota's average teacher salary is 70.8% of the national average.
  2. South Dakota's cost of living (as of Q2 2007) is 92.2% of the national average.
  3. South Dakota's current average teacher salary: $34,709.
  4. South Dakota's average teacher salary if it reflected only the difference in the cost of living: $45,545.

You can view the full NEA report (in PDF format -- big download!); the teacher salary stats are on page 19, Table C-11 of the paper version (page 37 of 130 on your browser). I'll try to get a copy of just that page and post it here for those of you with slower connections!

Cross-posted at KELOLand.com!

Update 22:00: The Associated School Boards of South Dakota "Open Forum" blog gives props to the Madville Times for helping "dispel some of the myths surrounding South Dakota's last-in-nation ranking.

Update #2 22:15: SiteMeter tells me the Washington Post has picked up this post on its "Who's Blogging" links for its print of a brief AP report ["Va. Teachers 31st in Pay, NEA Report Says,"
Washington Post, 2007.12.12]. So far 13 folks from all corners of the map -- Anchorage to Miami, New York to California, Utah to Illinois, have checked, many following the link to the original source, the NEA report. Thanks for visiting! The Madville Times is glad to flesh out the details for the mainstream media.


  1. Rick Knobe must be a big fan of the Governor's TCAP Funding program in which the Governor waves the flag of offering more money for teachers if they'll simply put in more hours after hours. Here's how the State sells the TCAP program on its website.

    "The intent of the Teacher Compensation Assistance Program (TCAP) is to assist local school districts in enhancing teacher compensation in order to build their educator base through targeted recruitment, retention and training."

    We are so fortunate that we have the tremendous work ethic and results our teachers are providing, considering our rank in salaries. I hope the school funding lawsuit is successful and our teachers begin to receive the compensation they deserve for taking such good care of our kids.

  2. Here we go again. My lawyer daughter could make a lot more if she wanted to move out of state, which she isn't going to do. My vet son does make more in MN than he would in SD, but still plans to come back some day. The thing is, it IS cheaper to live in SD, and no one in SD makes what we think we are worth. When you rank SD with other states taking in cost of living, teachers are not dead last. I'm not a teacher, would not be a good teacher and thus did not choose that job field. But it would be nice to work the number of days that teachers do, get the vacations off that they do, and get the benefit packages they get in terms of insurance etc. I agree that some teachers aren't paid a lot (beginning elementary) but some are paid more than they are worth and with tenure etc can't be gotten rid of even if they are doing a poor job. Instead of advocating for higher wages for teachers, how about advocating for equitably higher wages for all other professions as well? We are all underpaid in SD, but we still choose to live here. If you want higher wages, move to a state that provides them.

    Sorry if this sounds harsh, but if you think the abortion issue is getting trite, so is this one.

  3. What's getting trite, Anon8:10, is people continuing the chant the "lower cost of living mantra" when the statistics and sources I give you here say that the cost of living relative to wages is not cheaper in SD than elsewhere. Face the facts. You've chosen to live here, I've chosen to live here, but in a tightening economy, fewer rational actors in the market will choose to live here.

    "If you want higher wages, move to a state that provides them" -- do you really think you can recruit teachers and other workers with a slogan like that? Come on -- let's look for solutions that will make SD competitive in wages in teaching and, yes, all other fields. But we start with good teacher pay, more investment in K-12 and university education, more university research and development, which will serve as the basis for improved economic development that will provide better wages for a wider circle of workers. Trite or not, that's positive, workable policy that will make life better for you, me, and 750,000 other South Dakotans.


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